Conversation Critique

This week’s exercise is inspired by Stephen Covey's concept of empathic listening. He argues that in any conversation it is important to first seek to understand and then be understood.

You know that moment when a conversation takes a turn for the worse?

It's when you move from having a discussion to #awkwardsilence or stalemated debate. You aren't quite sure how you got there and or how to move forward.

Experts like Covey would say that part of identifying what went wrong is understanding the level of conversation you were having in the first place.

Introducing Your Conversation Critique Exercise

What It Is
A way to analyze your conversations so you can identify better ways to communicate with others.

Why We Love It 

No one likes leaving a conversation feeling underwhelmed. We all want to be heard, understood and validated by others. This exercise helps you understand the different mindsets you bring to your interactions so you can learn to listen more effectively. 

How It Works

1. Recall a conversation you've had recently. Take a look at the following levels of listening and identify which you reached during that conversation:

  • Gist: This is "intermittent listening; listening long enough to get the gist of what the other side is saying before we refocus on our internal voice which is formulating a reaction from our world view."  
  • Rebut: We listen to the conversation long enough to find something we can rebut. "Once heard, we just wait for the other side to shut up long enough so we can tell them how their position is faulty and by extension, how much smarter we are."
  • Logic: Here we try to understand the internal logic behind what is being said and make inferences about the person based on what they're saying.
  • Emotions: At this stage "we listen for any emotions and/or identity issues that may be driving their argument," and we try to understand how important these emotions are to what they're saying. 
  • Empathy: At this level "we filter their emotion and logic through a prism of empathy" with the ultimate goal of "getting beyond the cursory level of understanding to a deeper appreciation of their world view." 
2. Now, consider a meeting you have in the coming days and reflect on which listening level you'd like to reach during that conversation. Write out a list of questions you might bring to that chat in order to obtain this level of understanding.

3. After your meeting, reflect on the differences between the conversation in #1 and #2. In which situations might you select one over the other? Are there things you might do differently in conversations moving forward?

Source: BSG
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